Community leaders from East Meadow and surrounding areas have worked for nearly three years to provide equity and opportunities to underprivileged youth on Long Island.
Equity 4 LI Youth has been in the works since 2020, when Patrick Pizzo, assistant superintendent of business and finance in the East Meadow School District, spoke to Superintendent Kenneth Card about creating a group that would help create equity among youth through employment, vocational training and mentorship opportunities.
The idea for Equity 4 LI Youth grew out of Pizzo’s experience teaching sixth grade in New York City. “Being a person who grew up on Long Island working in that community, all the kids in my class were very diverse,” Pizzo said. “The difference between them and some of the kids I grew up with — and myself — was that we had opportunities. That was the only thing that separated us. It wasn’t the intelligence that separated us. It was opportunity.”
The Equity 4 LI Youth executive board, board of directors, committee members, advisory members, and partners are all community leaders, advocacy groups and organizations from around Long Island. The goal is to foster collaboration and networking opportunities within their respective organizations, like the NAACP Education Committee, the Nassau County Bar Association, Freeport’s Cedarmore Corporation, Pride for Youth Long Island, and the Long Island Black Educators Association.
State Sen. Kevin Thomas, County Legislator Kevan Abrahams and Assemblyman John Mikulin serve on the advisory board.
“It was just bringing together an extended circle of friends,” Pizzo said. “It was all people of like minds in regard to making a positive change.”
The organization’s website, equity4liyouth.org
, outlines its mission, its plans and what each member offers to the mission. It also features a job placement survey to help students assess their skills and interests, link to job opportunities, fairs, trainings and more. The site provides information about scholarships, youth programs, family information, and events.
The group is looking in 2023 to expand its outreach and collaboration with the Cedarmore Corporation and others with a focus on gender equity and mental health awareness and issues that are attributable to learn loss as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We want to focus on the issues that young people are coming into after being out of school, doing school electronically for a long period of time,” Pizzo explained. “We are looking at doing events for both the educational and the emotional aspects that have contributed to learning loss.”
Pizzo said the organization and everyone involved is the true definition of equity.
“It’s a lot of leaders and a lot of different perspectives kind of working collaboratively on different things,” Pizzo said. “So one of the things that we say with Equity for Long Island Youth is we don’t care what party you’re from, you just have to care about kids.”
Louis Medina, the group’s recording secretary, and professional at New York Life Insurance Company said he became involved because he wanted to help kids.
“When I was growing up, I didn’t really have much direction, and insight,” Medina said. “I see that many kids today are in similar situations, and for some kids, if their parents are blue collar or civil service or union they might get that introduction to those careers, but I never had that and other kids might not either.
“It’s great to learn these things later in life and then direct someone.”
Medina said he wants to start doing more career exposure events with the group.
“If somebody goes on and has a successful career, well, that’s really what this is about,” Pizzo said.
The website is updated at least four times a week, Pizzo said, with information including jobs and other opportunities.
“The information doesn’t do anyone any good in my inbox,” he said.